April Blog- Pathways to Work Initiative- Ground-Breaking and Necessary for Reform of our Welfare System.

In my view the recent ‘Pathways to Work’ initiative, launched by the Department of Social Protection, is both ground-breaking and necessary. Before my current Dáil term, I served two Seanad terms and spent many years in Local Government. During all of those years I became very conversant with Welfare provisions and schemes. In retrospect I can now clearly see that Unemployment Assistance/ Jobseekers Allowance was viewed as an end in itself or as a solution to a real human problem. That is not to minimise or decry the work done by FÁS at ground level, Adult Education or Community Employment Schemes.

Despite some popular misconception, I never met an unemployed person who was happy to remain that way. On the contrary, the experience is debilitating, demoralising and damaging to both mental and physical health. Most of the negative comments about unemployed people are born out of prejudice, arising from ignorance.

Every agency of the State and its servants must from now on view an unemployed person as a potential worker. They must view them as having a right to work and in the meantime, the right to financial assistance towards that end. The unemployed person must be met and mentored by a qualified person at the outset. Their educational, training and personal development needs should be holistically addressed.

It is vital that they get a relevant training course that fits their profile and job ambitions. It is also crucial that there is an active job application coding process and identification of opportunities. If we do otherwise, we are not responding adequately to a whole section of our population.

The progress of each individual should be followed until they gain employment. Failure to gain employment should be viewed as a failure of the system, not the person.

This approach will have a revolutionary outcome if done right. It should never be forgotten that taking a person off Job Seekers is not only transformational for that individual but saves our taxpayers twenty thousand euro per year.

Let us begin anew.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website